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Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam talks about education and his budget to the editorial board at the Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Students at Chattanooga and Cleveland State community colleges would see their lowest percentage tuition hikes in what may well be a quarter century under a plan winning preliminary approval Tuesday from a Tennessee Board of Regents' panel.

The TBR's Finance Committee approved tuition increases under 3 percent for the 46 two-year colleges and technical schools, as well as four-year universities now in the system.

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The proposal will go before the full regents board at its June 24 meeting.

For Chattanooga State and Cleveland State students, the tuition increase is just 2 percent, with another 0.6 percent of increases in other fees tagged on, making for a combined rise of 2.6 percent. Based on TBR records, that appears to be the lowest percentage increase since the 1991-1992 academic year for the two institutions.

Gov. Bill Haslam this year recommended and state lawmakers approved an additional $72.2 million for salaries and inflation at TBR, as well as the University of Tennessee systems. With that in mind, as well as this year's thwarted Senate effort to force higher education to freeze tuition on currently enrolled students, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission told both systems to hold the line on increases to 3 percent.

"Every institution is below that [3 percent] number," Dale Sims, the board's vice chancellor for business and finance, told TBR Finance Committee members, according to an account in The Tennessean.

In recent decades, state government has reduced the percentage of money it provides for public education, a trend that accelerated dramatically after the Great Recession struck in 2008. But Haslam, who took office in 2011, has been moving more recently to increase funding.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on twitter at AndySher1.

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